The Amish Wedding, or A Chrysler Among Carriages

I've been to several weddings: Catholic, Jewish, Multi-Faith, and a long time ago, I even went to an Amish wedding. Have you ever been to an Amish wedding? I thought I would tell you about it, in case you've never been to one.

The father of the bride, Mr. Chris Petersheim, fulfills a very functional role in the Amish community, building and repairing carriages. He is a pleasant man, and nimble with making people feel at ease. He is an artisan outside the community, repairing antique finishes and carriages for that small group of privilege who own antique cars and carriages (like this). There aren't very many non-Amish who do this kind of work, and he does it very well.

He met my grandfather at a car show. They became good friends. When Mr. Petersheim’s daughter got married, Pop-Pop was invited, and he brought me and my little sister. I was very unsure of myself, dressed as plainly as possible, long dark grey skirt and matching plain jacket, with buttons.

I had been to the shop before. As we pulled up to the Nickel Mine Coach Shop, we saw that a new barn had been built recently, probably within a couple of days.

As we rolled down the driveway in Pop-Pop’s big Chrysler, five Amish men quietly stepped outside and started to apologize that Mr. Petersheim was not open for business today. Then they saw who it was and said “John! So glad you could come!” Ours was the only motorized vehicle amongst the dozens of carriages.

Something like this, plus more carriages, plus a Chrysler. I suppose the horses were in the new barn.

Something like this, plus more carriages, plus a Chrysler. I suppose the horses were in the new barn.

We walked in and found a seat in the back. The men and women were seated separately. The women bustled back and forth from the benches to where they were preparing a meal behind a sheet hung on a cord. The men had all taken off their hats and hung them on pegs around the barn. With their Prince Valiant haircuts, it was the largest concentration of hat-head I would ever see in my life.

The service was in High German, I was told. Like all the weddings I've been to, it was beautiful. They even chanted, which we were later told was definitely not singing. After the service, the sheet came down, the men flipped and reconfigured the benches, and presto: lines of picnic tables.

After a solid meal, we were allowed to look at the wedding jujubes. It was a table covered with little houses, trees, globes, all covered with jujubes. I don’t know if these were wedding presents or dessert, but we didn't stay much longer. Mr. Petersheim spoke with Pop-Pop a bit, was very pleasant to me and my sister, and we climbed in to the car for the long trip home.

It wasn't the last time I would see Mr. Petersheim. Pop-Pop drove him to see his father in a faraway hospital, and they stopped in to visit on the way. I guess exceptions are made for this kind of thing, but Mr. Petersheim made a point of riding in the back seat. Until they had left the Amish community. Then he leaned forward and said “John, pull over here.” He got out, and got into the front eat, so he could share that time with his friend. When they returned, he did the same in reverse. “John, pull over here.” He got into the back for the rest of the ride home.

I don’t suppose I’ll ever see him again.

Note: I haven’t gotten Mr. Petersheim’s permission to discuss him here because, well, he’s Amish, and I’m not sure how to reach him. I’m making a rather grand assumption that his friends will not come across this, but if you’re ever in the neighborhood, you can tell him that John Carney’s granddaughter sent you. Just don’t mention the thing about riding in the front seat.